Tuesday, July 29, 2008
The Internet Is No Substitute for the Dying Newspaper Industry
By Chris Hedges, Truthdig
The decline of newspapers is not about the replacement of the antiquated technology of news print with the lightning speed of the Internet. It does not signal an inevitable and salutary change. It is not a form of progress. The decline of newspapers is about the rise of the corporate state, the loss of civic and public responsibility on the part of much of our entrepreneurial class and the intellectual poverty of our post-literate world, a world where information is conveyed primarily through rapidly moving images rather than print.
All these forces have combined to strangle newspapers. And the blood on the floor, this year alone, is disheartening. Some 6,000 journalists nationwide have lost their jobs, news pages are being radically cut back and newspaper stocks have tumbled. Advertising revenues are dramatically falling off with many papers seeing double-digit drops. McClatchy Co., publisher of the Miami Herald, has seen its shares fall by 77 percent this year. Lee Enterprises Inc., which owns the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, is down 84 percent. Gannett Co., which publishes USA Today, is trading at nearly a 17-year low. The San Francisco Chronicle is now losing $1 million a week.
The Internet will not save newspapers. Although all major newspapers, and most smaller ones, have Web sites, and have had for a while, newspaper Web sites make up less than 10 percent of newspaper ad revenue. Analysts say that although Net advertising amounts to $21 billion a year, that amount is actually relatively small. So far, the really big advertisers have stayed away, either unsure of how to use the Internet or suspicious that it can't match the viewer attention of older media.
Newspapers, when well run, are a public trust. They provide, at their best, the means for citizens to examine themselves, to ferret out lies and the abuse of power by elected officials and corrupt businesses, to give a voice to those who would, without the press, have no voice, and to follow, in ways a private citizen cannot, the daily workings of local, state and federal government. Newspapers hire people to write about city hall, the state capital, political campaigns, sports, music, art and theater. They keep citizens engaged with their cultural, civic and political life. When I began as a foreign correspondent 25 years ago, most major city papers had bureaus in Latin America, the Middle East, Europe, Asia and Moscow. Reporters and photographers showed Americans how the world beyond our borders looked, thought and believed. Most of this is vanishing or has vanished.
We live under the happy illusion that we can transfer news-gathering to the Internet. News-gathering will continue to exist, as it does on this Web site and sites such as ProPublica and Slate, but these traditions now have to contend with a new, widespread and ideologically driven partisanship that dominates the dissemination of views and information, from Fox News to blogger screeds. The majority of bloggers and Internet addicts, like the endless rows of talking heads on television, do not report. They are largely parasites who cling to traditional news outlets. They can produce stinging and insightful commentary, which has happily seen the monopoly on opinion pieces by large papers shattered, but they rarely pick up the phone, much less go out and find a story. Nearly all reporting -- I would guess at least 80 percent -- is done by newspapers and the wire services. Take that away and we have a huge black hole.
Those who rely on the Internet gravitate to sites that reinforce their beliefs. The filtering of information through an ideological lens, which is destroying television journalism, defies the purpose of reporting. Journalism is about transmitting information that doesn't care what you think. Reporting challenges, countermands or destabilizes established beliefs. Reporting, which is time-consuming and often expensive, begins from the premise that there are things we need to know and understand, even if these things make us uncomfortable. If we lose this ethic we are left with pandering, packaging and partisanship. We are left awash in a sea of competing propaganda. Bloggers, unlike most established reporters, rarely admit errors. They cannot get fired. Facts, for many bloggers, are interchangeable with opinions. Take a look at The Drudge Report. This may be the new face of what we call news.
When the traditional news organizations go belly up we will lose a vast well of expertise and information. Our democracy will suffer a body blow. Not that many will notice. The average time a reader of The New York Times spends with the printed paper is about 45 minutes. The average time a viewer spends on The New York Times Web site is about seven minutes. There is a difference between browsing and reading. And the Web is built for browsing rather than for reading. When there is a long piece on the Internet, most of us have to print it out to get through it.
The rise of our corporate state has done the most, however, to decimate traditional news-gathering. Time Warner, Disney, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., General Electric and Viacom control nearly everything we read, watch, hear and ultimately think. And news that does not make a profit, as well as divert viewers from civic participation and challenging the status quo, is not worth pursuing. This is why the networks have shut down their foreign bureaus. This is why cable newscasts, with their chatty anchors, all look and sound like the "Today" show. This is why the FCC, in an example of how far our standards have fallen, defines shows like Fox's celebrity gossip program "TMZ" and the Christian Broadcast Network's "700 Club" as "bona fide newscasts." This is why television news personalities, people like Katie Couric, have become celebrities earning, in her case, $15 million a year. This is why newspapers like the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune are being ruthlessly cannibalized by corporate trolls like Sam Zell, turned into empty husks that focus increasingly on boutique journalism. Corporations are not in the business of news. They hate news, real news. Real news is not convenient to their rape of the nation. Real news makes people ask questions. They prefer to close the prying eyes of reporters. They prefer to transform news into another form of mindless amusement and entertainment.
A democracy survives when its citizens have access to trustworthy and impartial sources of information, when it can discern lies from truth. Take this away and a democracy dies. The fusion of news and entertainment, the rise of a class of celebrity journalists on television who define reporting by their access to the famous and the powerful, the retreat by many readers into the ideological ghettos of the Internet and the ruthless drive by corporations to destroy the traditional news business are leaving us deaf, dumb and blind.
We are cleverly entertained during our descent. We have our own version of ancient Rome's bread and circuses with our ubiquitous and elaborate spectacles, sporting events, celebrity gossip and television reality shows. Societies in decline, as the Roman philosopher Cicero wrote, see their civic and political discourse contaminated by the excitement and emotional life of the arena. And the citizens in these degraded societies, he warned, always end up ruled by a despot, a Nero or a George W. Bush.
Chris Hedges, who graduated from Harvard Divinity School and was for nearly two decades a foreign correspondent for The New York Times, is the author of "American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America."
Saturday, July 26, 2008
JUST IN: NEWSSTAND DROPS MAGAZINES
There's lots of empty space as Michael Bonney transitions his Monmouth Street shop from a newsstand to a convenience store.
By LINDA G. RASTELLI
When Michael Bonney bought Red Bank News in May, it seemed the decades-old monument to print journalism, deemed "a Red Bank treasure" by one regular, would continue much the same as before.
Patrons could still lose themselves browsing the racks of newspapers and magazines that took up most of the shop’s floor space.
But today, what was once a crowded warren of newsprint and glossies is open space that mainly draws the eye to the checkered black and white floor (soon to be replaced by hardwood or linoleum, Bonney said).
The magazine racks are gone, as Bonney has drastically pruned his 500-title magazine inventory, which he's planning to replace with more household items, including dairy products and toiletries.
"It'll be more like Prown's," he explained, referring to the much lamented Broad Street five-and-dime that closed in 2003 and for many residents remains the symbol of a slower, more stable, less gentrified downtown.
Now it seems that the Red Bank News known to generations of customers is also about to begin slowly fading into the collective memory, as newspaper and magazine sales become more of a sideline to its business than its mainstay.
"I do feel bad about it," Bonney told redbankgreen last week. "People are a little bit disappointed, and there's been a few complaints."
Like many other changes wrought by technology, the decline of print media attracts its mourners. But Bonney has found that standing against the tide enacts its toll — in this case, financial.
Bonney, an Asbury Park resident and avid newspaper reader, said he was returning more than 1,000 unsold copies of periodicals monthly. He's also learned in his short time in the business that more people were browsers than buyers.
So as much as he liked carrying the variety of titles, he decided after a painfully slow August that he couldn't continue to stock a product that was unprofitable. Lack of flexibility in working with his large distributor also contributed to his decision, he added.
"People just aren't buying most magazines every month," he said. "They use the Internet, or subscribe, so they don't buy single copies much."
Now, copies of garish gossip magazines and the obligatory Playboys sit at the front counter amid a few lonely looking copies of Discover and the Economist. "I'm just keeping the ones that always sell," Bonney said.
He's still selling newspapers, but not in as great a variety as before. Cigarettes, lottery tickets an snacks remain on sale.
What's next? The store will slowly transition to more of a convenience store, Bonney said, while he tries out new items — household staples such as light bulbs and foods such as eggs and milk.
And how are the old-timers taking it? During all his stops and starts, "people have been very patient and understanding, I want you to say that," Bonney stressed. "I'm learning as I go. These are growing pains."
Monday, July 21, 2008
Delighting in a Magazine's Death? a Q&A with the blogger behind MagazineDeathPool.com
By Peter Beisser
The Grim Reaper, the popular, anonymous blogger behind the Magazine Death Pool at http://www.magazinedeathpool.com, believes the end of days is near for print magazines.
It may not mean coming into physical contact with the blade of a scythe, but appearing on the Grim Reaper's blog may prove just as deadly to a major magazine title. For nearly three years now, the unidentified industry insider regularly has taken pleasure in predicting what popular title will close its doors next. Whether it's a dip in ad revenue or pages, another redesign or a shake-up in management, the Reaper sniffs out the early warning signs and chronicles the shuttering of popular magazines throughout the industry.
While maintaining his (her?) anonymity, the Grim Reaper excused himself for a few minutes from taking pleasure in predicting who's next on the chopping block, and answered Publishing Executive Inbox's questions about his bleak outlook for the future of the industry.
Publishing Executive Inbox: In your opinion, what are the top reasons that all of these magazine titles have been shuttering in such great numbers in the last few years?
Grim Reaper: There are several reasons why titles are closing down, some with greater impact than others. A) Magazines that outlived their usefulness or relevancy, especially being in the line of fire of what's popular on the Web. B) Magazines that were right in the crosshairs of the faltering economy. C) No. 3 titles in some categories were just not going to survive. D) Magazines that were created for advertisers, not for an audience. E) Magazines that did not have a smart and profitable digital strategy. F) Too much reliance on advertisers in trouble or under the gun (i.e. automobiles, liquor).
In the first three cases, there was really not much fault to be given. The times changed. The way people consumed their media changed. The Web began to own certain areas, like gossip, personal finance and sports, so magazines were becoming more vulnerable.
As for D, the biggest mistake is to create a magazine first for advertisers, and hope the audience follows afterwards. Cargo will forever be the poster boy for this line of thinking-that men would want a shopping magazine if women had made Lucky so successful. I have a feeling we will see Portfolio fall into the same trap in the next year or so, and it will create a much more deafening crash in the forest.
As for E, it still amazes me that magazine publishers didn't learn from the first dot-com bubble about slapping their own articles online, thereby cannibalizing themselves. Fast Company and Radar put many of their current issue articles online when they hit newsstands, for example. On the other hand, SmartMoney was intelligent enough to create a site that not only stands on its own, but they created unique Web applications that they can license out.
Inbox: When did it all begin to snowball out of control? What did publishers and the industry do wrong?
Reaper: I sensed it all began to spiral out of control when I started my blog, when Time Inc. began its first round of layoffs in December 2005. The paradigm shift to digital media really kicked in the fear at that point. I do not think publishers did anything wrong for the most part except be in the wrong place at the wrong time, much like the dinosaurs.
Inbox: What are the warning signs that tell you a title is in trouble? When is the plug usually pulled?
Reaper: The warning signs I look for a magazine getting in trouble include: losing lots of ads and/or circulation in a category dominated by the Web or becoming irrelevant, publishers firing in-house sales staff and then outsourcing them, desperate attempts to pretty up the covers into something the editorial isn't, changing the editorial mission, especially to be fad-ish, and consumers basically ignoring them.
Inbox: What do you think magazine publishers can do to stop the hemorrhaging?
Reaper: With some titles, there's nothing that can be done to stop hemorrhaging. For example, I just don't see how newsweeklies are going to survive, so they may as well close up shop and move fully to the Web. I know this sounds terrible, but if you can't beat 'em, join 'em in some cases. Magazine brands and their domains can be very strong and profitable on the Web, as opposed to ink on paper. Others just need to suck it up, cut rate bases, and devote resources to Web sites that can stand alone with well-done SEO to generate revenue.
Inbox: What were your main goals for the Web site? What has the response been from the industry?
Reaper: I set up Magazine Death Pool in February 2006 as a way of marking the slow end of an era in my own special way. It functions to point out some of the foolishness and arrogance of the industry, while certainly mourning the notable titles that have passed on. I've received a lot of e-mails from professors, as well as people who get sentimental about magazines that went under a long time ago. Of course, there are a few bile-spewing e-mails, including ones from the magazines I write about. I don't mind if they post comments in response to what I write. They should have a platform to vent. Knight Kiplinger, Jr. posted quite a long defensive comment on the blog recently. Anybody whose first name is Knight deserves a spot on my blog.
Inbox: Who is going to survive, and why are these titles different?
Reaper: The titles which have the best odds of surviving are the ones that are read for the big splashy ads, like Vogue, Elle, the bridal books. People buy those magazines for their lush spreads and ads. They can not be reproduced on the Web or read comfortably on a mobile phone . . . yet.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
When the going's tough, the tough sell
In these hard times, some titles are up in pages
By Diego Vasquez
This last quarter was the worst in recent memory for consumer magazines, and it doesn't look very promising going forward, contrary to some forecasts that see magazines rebounding in the second half of 2008.
How bad was the second quarter?
Ad pages were down 7.4 percent, according to Publishers Information Bureau figures, and of the 23 magazine categories tracked by Media Life, all but one saw pages fall.
Just a handful of magazines saw improved ad page counts, among them OK!, up 31.7 percent; The Economist, 3.7 percent; Harper's Bazaar, 9.4 percent; Conde Nast Traveler, 3.8 percent; National Geographic, 11 percent; Popular Mechanics, 8 percent; and Everyday with Rachael Ray, 15.4 percent.
To get a better sense of the state of the magazine industry, and why some magazines are up in pages, Media Life talked to their publishers, as well as longtime magazine consultant Martin Walker of Walker Communications.
These are anxious times, they agree.
"I've seen a lot of ups and downs, but this is scary," Anne Balaban, publisher of Everyday with Rachael Ray, tells Media Life. "We're hearing day after day about how many marketers just aren't advertising. It's across the board. It's every industry, not just ours. These are trying times."
Says Lisa Hughes, vice president and publisher of Conde Nast Traveler: "It's harder to find that customer out there who's still consuming. The economy is the economy, and there are a lot of unknowns right now. The election, will oil prices ever come down? It's a tough business climate for everybody."
William Congdon, publisher of Popular Mechanics, agrees. "We're in for a challenging second half. Right now we're up through the October issue at least, but I know it will be challenging. Through first quarter it will still be very challenging. A lot of it depends on when we get a new president and people figure out what direction we're heading."
Says Jason Webby, vice president of advertising sales at the Economist: "I would hope magazines rebound in the second half of this year. That's everybody's hope. But with what's happening in the financial markets, especially this week, you never know."
Walker doesn't see consumer magazines springing back anytime soon.
"The industry probably won't turn around until at least 2010," he says. "Most of the decisions about next year are being made in the next two or three months, so all of those will be based on what's happening now. If the economy all of a sudden gets good in 2009, that's not enough time to impact the second half of next year, given the print cycle."
A major hurt has been the drop in pharmaceutical ads, which had buoyed consumer titles for several years. For this first half of this year, ad pages for drugs and remedies fell 13.2 percent.
Always controversial, drug advertising has come under closer scrutiny by regulators following a rash of lawsuits over harmful side effects that were not detected or revealed before going to market. Marketers, anxious to avoid tougher regulation, are cutting ad spending, and they've entirely cut advertising for new drugs in their first six months.
Certainly, the falloff in drug advertising has hurt a lot of titles, and it's something publishers have no control over. That's true of all ad categories.
But a huge factor in how well a title is doing is in the hands of publishers, and that's in how hard and how well they sell. That especially matters during tough times, these publishers say.
Conde Nast Traveler's Hughes says it's about coming up with better ideas.
"You have to be really out there, you have to be aggressive as a sales team. Advertisers are demanding great programs, and they scrutinize every dollar they spend. The titles that are hungry for the business and coming up with good ideas are going to win the business."
Says Rachael Ray's Balaban: "This is when it really counts to have good product and smart programs--building a base of smart programs that are unique to our brand and compelling enough to advertisers that makes them feel they're getting so much value with their dollars. "
Says Tom Morrissy, OK!'s publisher: "Those who have strong programs in place and are strong brands will do fine. It just won't be one of those years where everyone is breaking open champagne bottles."
Popular Mechanics' Congdon observes that good programs have a way of rooting out ad dollars. "It's not so much that ad budgets are totally cut. Advertisers are just being cautious. But if you keep going in and keep bringing fresh ideas, they'll still have that money."
Valerie Salembier, publisher of Harper's Bazaar, says it's also about being where your competitors are not.
"Things are tough, but they've been tough before and all of these magazines continue to publish and last and endure," she says.
"In terms of selling advertising, it is back to basics 101. Get out there and make the calls. You don't get ads by sitting behind your desk on the phone, you get them sitting at your client's desk.
Claudia Malley, vice president and U.S. publisher of National Geographic, says it's also about being able to stand apart from your competitors, and a big part of that is reader engagement, which she says resonates with marketers.
"Integration will be a key. Those brands who can differentiate by being a brand leader and then have communication with consumers across all media will be the ones that succeed."
Monday, July 14, 2008
Is Digital Marketing Killing Magazine Ads?
BY Jason Baer
A report last week by the Publishers Information Bureau found that advertising pages in the nation’s magazines declined by 7.4% compared to the first half of 2007.
With the stock market down by about 20%, and house prices down at least that much in some parts of the country, a 7% dip in magazine ads may seem less frightening than the prospect that Angelina Jolie will somehow end up being mother to all of the world’s children.
However, there are two inexorable trends in marketing right now and neither bode well for magazines mid or long-term. The economy will rebound at some point, but even when that happens, will magazines recoup their share of the advertising pie? In general, I think not.
First, marketing is increasingly about measurability, and on that front magazines score no better than any other “traditional advertising” tactic like TV, radio, or newspaper. I would put magazines ahead of outdoor on that scale, because at least they have audited circulation. But how does the savvy marketing director (or agency media buyer) determine the financial impact and ROI of magazine? Short of tracking URLs and phone numbers (which basically pass the measurement buck off to another medium), it’s pretty difficult to isolate the effect of a magazine buy - which is why digital marketing is growing and everything else is stagnating in this down economy.
The second issue for magazines is speed. The lead times required by monthly magazines for advertising and editorial are positively anachronistic. Consumer magazines are working on their October issues right now. Seriously? By October, Brett Favre could be playing quarterback for the Bears, and all of California could be on fire. In these uncertain times, committing to expensive magazine ads 90 days in advance seems like a leap of faith that fewer advertisers are willing to make.
And speaking of speed, magazines without an especially sharp editorial focus and solid reporting are going to have a tough time in a culture where information is conveyed in 160-character bites RIGHT NOW. Interestingly, some of the magazines showing the biggest decline in ad pages this year are those who cover topics that are perhaps covered better online by sites and blogs.
Blender (-23.5%). See www.pitchforkmedia.com, last.fm
Business Week (-14.8%) See www.thestreet.com, www.cnbc.com, www.businessweek.com
PC Magazine (-35.8%) See www.gizmodo.com, www.cnet.com
Newsweek (-22.4%) Time (-21.1%) and U.S. News (-30.3%) See www.huffingtonpost.com, www.nytimes.com, and Twitter, where thousands of people are discussing current events as they happen, not a week later.
Interestingly, one area of magazine-ville that showed consistent gains was food publications. With gas and food prices soaring, Americans are eating out less and trying to craft delicious meals at home. I’m not sure this trend is going to do anything about the obesity problem, however, as Cooking with Paul Deen ad pages were up 31%. That lady is physically incapable of executing recipes without at least one pound of sour cream.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Media Survival: Avoid Obsolescence
by Diane Mermigas
Obsolescence is a word that sends chills down the spines of most corporate executives. It also is something we are going to see more of as sweeping changes in digital technology, fuel prices and financial fundamentals disrupt and displace the norms.
This trend is starkly evident at U.S. automakers struggling with car sales at a 10-year lows, and most particularly General Motors, whose stock is trading at 50-year lows. At the core of these troubling trends is a dramatic, swift shift in consumer demand caused by the oil crisis. Detroit automakers are still selling the SUVs and minivans that consumers wanted when gasoline was selling at $2.50 a gallon, but have quickly shunned at $4-plus per gallon.
The knee-jerk response of production plant closings, massive layoffs and other cost reductions do not get to the heart of the problem. GM and other U.S. automakers must unload their existing inventories of gas-guzzling vehicles and completely revamp their operations and infrastructure to accommodate demand for new products. Liquidity is a big issue, as is the ability to revise existing cost structures and union contracts without resorting to bankruptcy. Since none of this can be accomplished overnight, there is going to be transitional pain. They simply cannot shift gears fast enough. For proof, look no further than the financial and logistic nightmare haunting domestic airlines.
Media companies - in particular, broadcasters, cable operators and content creators - must take heed, too. They could be confronted by a similar obsolescence that renders their assets and operations with shrinking value and flexibility. The marketplace's pervasive digital conversion is well ahead of where most traditional media players need to be. There are many instances where their products, services and business models are no longer what technology-empowered consumers want. These companies' public values, balance sheet stability and cash reserves are in decline.
They can't generate new digital revenues fast enough to offset the decline in traditional revenues due to an inability to reform their inefficient legacy structures. They also are limited in their ability to raise capital. Media companies of all stripes have seen their valuations tumble, not just because of the overall stock market malaise. Their revenue and earnings forecasts are being thrown off by massive shifts in content distribution, services and the general flow of money. It is challenging to value new interactive connections between target consumers with the most relevant advertisers and content, much less redefine the value of entire companies.
The parallels to the auto industry are disturbing. GM's market cap has fallen to $6 billion, compared with foreign-based Toyota at $147 billion. CBS is treading a $13 billion market cap compared with Google's low-end $169 billion valuation. New business models, methods and markets are both creating and destroying value.
The media sector where this is most painfully evident is newspapers, which are sustaining record double-digit declines in annual advertising revenues and even some operating margins. The entertainment and broadcasting sectors collectively are down 25% from the first half of 2007, based on soft advertising trends in a worsening economic environment and local markets "more exposed to recessionary trends and lower digital penetration," according to Lehman Brothers analyst Vijay Jayant. All media and telecom (67 stocks in 14 subsectors) were collectively down -15.5% from a year earlier, underperforming the S&P 500 (down 12.8%) the first half of 2008.
However, there will be even more dramatic structural and fiscal fallout evident for some broadcasters when there is no election or Olympic year ad spending in 2009. Local TV broadcasters will be confronted by what veteran analyst and consultant Tom Wolzien has described as the $16 billion challenge, or the growing gap between their primary channel and total revenue goals based on mining digital opportunities.
Wolzien made the point during a TVB presentation that local broadcasters - like their affiliated broadcast networks - will need to do more than shift some of their TV programming and ads online. He made the point using 2006 newspaper statistics. Although newspapers collectively sold $2.7 billion in Web advertising, up 31%, overall newspaper industry growth based on all revenues sources was flat.
In other words, for the beleaguered newspaper industry to post even just 5% returns, it needed for its online sales to rise an estimated 161%. Not all revenues are made equal, especially when priced differently and held up against legacy operating expenses that can only be permanently reduced through a complete embrace of e-publishing models - akin to GM shifting from SUV to hybrid car manufacturing.
On the broadcast front, Borrell Associates estimates that local TV station Web revenues will grow 48% this year to top $1 billion, and grow to an estimated $1.4 billion in 2009. However, analysts point out that online revenues still represent 5% or less of TV stations' overall revenues and generally will not completely offset lost or declining revenues especially in non-election years. The only way to secure more significant, permanent growing new revenues and profits is to structurally alter the local TV broadcast business. It is a tactical overhaul that TV broadcasters - like car manufacturers - must squarely confront and execute to achieve lasting change and a path to survival.
Sunday, July 06, 2008
E-editions are gaining ground in the mainstream market.
By Gretchen A. Peck
This spring, Barnes & Noble announced that it would offer both print publications and digital editions of more than 1,000 magazine titles to visitors of BN.com. The e-editions will be fulfilled by Barnes & Noble partner Zinio. Indeed, it’s just one more indication that, despite some debate on their future, digital editions are becoming a viable alternative to print for a growing number of readers.
Cambridge, Mass.-based The Gilbane Group recently published a study, “Digital Magazine and Newspaper Editions: Growth, Trends, and Best Practices,” showing that the number of business-to-business publications offering digital editions increased by more than 300 percent in a two-year span (2005 to 2007), and the number of consumer publications offering digital editions has increased by more than 200 percent.
For publishers, clear economic and environmental benefits exist: Digital editions don’t kill trees, and the cost to produce a digital edition is much less than a printed publication.
Beyond the environmental and economic considerations, many publishers also have found digital editions to be an effective medium for enhancing the editorial and advertising experience with the use of rich media.
Today, even businesses that have for generations been dedicated to printing publications are looking at digital distribution as a new way to serve publishing clients. For example, Brown Printing Co.—one of the nation’s largest magazine printers—announced that it would assist publishers with their digital publications by partnering with iMirus Digital Solutions, the e-edition division owned by parent company Riggs Heinrich Media Inc. Many other printers are now offering digital-publication services to their publishers as well.
Digital editions also can be an effective way for publishers to expand into new markets, and increase their circulations without the additional printing and mailing costs.
It was the opportunity to launch a new global title that prompted the publisher of Recycling Today to venture into e-editions. The global edition of the magazine debuted in April exclusively as an e-edition, with the help of Advanced Publishing Corp.
“We are extending an existing North American title into a global market position,” explains James R. Keefe, executive vice president and group publisher, GIE Media, which publishes Recycling Today. “The launch of the new product, which is different from a content perspective, was easier to achieve in an electronic format, as delivery to a reader base around the world is more reliable and immediate. Therefore, the distribution issue becomes much easier to solve. As well, the platform we selected allows a lot of powerful multimedia and interactive applications.”
The monthly, controlled-circulation title already has 30,000 subscribers, but with reader feedback already very positive, Keefe expects continued circulation growth.
Digital editions are also proving to be a valuable strategy for publishers looking to breathe new life into previously published issues. For example, Wenner Media contracted Bondi Digital Publishing to convert Rolling Stone’s entire printed history into digital format and republish it as a searchable DVD, “Rolling Stone Cover-to-Cover: The First 40 Years.”
Whether the mass market will adopt digital editions as their preferred format for reading magazines in the future remains to be seen—and debated by industry pundits. But with recent triple-digit growth rates and one of the nation’s largest magazine retailers giving space to e-editions on its Web site, the future certainly seems promising for the digital magazine.
Solutions on the Market
As the number of publishers providing digital editions of their publications has grown, so has the number of digital editions solutions providers. Today, publishers have their choice of a wide range of products and services to fit their and their readers’ expectations for a digital publication. Here are a number of today’s top solutions on the market. Many printers of all sizes—such as Publishers Press, RR Donnelley and Sheridan Magazine Services—also now offer solutions to help publishers provide digital editions of their publications (but are not listed here). Many of these solutions are available to non-customers, so they may be worth investigating in your search for the best solution for your needs.
Advanced Publishing Corp.
Solution/Service: RIDE (Rich Interactive Digital Edition) is designed to enable publishers to create digital publications based on Microsoft’s award-winning Silverlight platform. Publications are fully searchable and may be complemented with rich media features. A secure subscription system is provided. Publishers also have access to real-time reports on pages viewed, time spent, click-thrus and more. Advanced Publishing digital-edition service includes conversion, hosting, subscriber access management, customized registration and data capture, e-mail notification delivery, BPA/ABC audit assistance, cross-publication search, archive issues access, and added capabilities for online ads, sponsorships, online video and more.
Pricing: All-inclusive, consisting of a one-time setup fee and a per-page fee based on the number of magazines and the overall volume of pages. For paid consumer magazines, it may also include a per-subscriber fee for each issue.
Magazine customers include: Composites Manufacturing; International Figure Skating; Vertical Magazine; GIE Media Inc.; Western Design & Interiors; Madavor Media LLC
Contact: (866) 785-4400, AdvancedPublishing.com
Solution/Service: alQemy is an Adobe Partner that pioneered the first interactive PDF magazine and catalog format with the launch of Magazooms. Today, all digital editions are built in Adobe Flash format, transformed using the company’s Internet-based Flash application and hosted on alQemy servers. Publishers also can present their e-editions, including archives, on their own Web sites via customizable portals, and have access to content feeds to supply their Web sites and RSS feeds with articles from their Magazooms publications. Magazooms offers a “Search and Save” feature, which enables users to conduct global cross-issue searches and save resulting pages to the desktop as a new, customized PDF. AlQemy has announced plans to offer special Magazooms versions for the Apple iPhone.
Pricing: Available as a Free Basic Service, which includes conversion and hosting to qualified publishers (some restrictions apply), or a Full Feature Service, based on cost-per-page with enhanced options such as video insertions, custom hyperlinks, reader graphs and analytics with reader maps, customizable Web portals, shopping-enabled pages and an integrated Shopping Cart.
Magazine customers include: Electronic Retailer; Online Strategies; Dog Fancy; Freshwater and Marine Aquarium; Texas RV Park and Travel Guide
Contact: (864) 284-9918, Magazooms.com
Solution/Service: BlueToad’s page-flip technology is designed to enable publishers to create and deploy an enhanced online version of print publications. Publishers can upload and convert print files to create a one-of-a-kind online publication with streaming audio and video, and as many as 20 direct Web links per page. Publishers can put a publication on BlueToad’s Web site, or distribute it from their own sites with a BlueToad Icon and a self-contained, online viewing system.
Pricing: No fees for setup, and no contracts required. Pricing is based on a per-page fee, which may be as little as $2.
Magazine customers include: Not available for publication.
Contact: (407) 992-8744, BlueToad.com/publisher
Bondi Digital Publishing
Solution/Service: Bondi Digital Publishing designs, creates and publishes complete print-magazine-archive box sets in searchable digital editions.
Pricing: Not provided.
Magazine customers include: The New Yorker; Playboy Enterprises; Wenner Media
Contact: (212) 405-1655, BondiDigital.com
Content Data Solutions, a div. of Thomas Publishing Co.
Solution/Service: Content DSI converts print-ready publication files into digital replicas that are searchable by keyword or full text, and can include live links, and statistical reporting on editorial content and advertising. Content Data Solutions can also host digital publications on the publisher’s behalf.
Pricing: Not provided.
Magazine customers include: Not available for publication.
Contact: (800) 872-2828, ContentDSI.com
Solution/Service: EditionDuo enables publishers to create digital replicas of print publications, enhanced with rich media, and stored and hosted by DMG. Publishers can present the publications on their Web sites; animated GIFs can be sent to subscribers via e-mail; or publishers can distribute a Flash file of the e-edition via removable media. Accessed via standard Web browsers. Among EditionDuo’s features: simple text feeds (an Article Link will open a text version of the article in a new window); article translation; link building through bookmark sites such as Digg, del.icio.us, Google and more; article commenting; and an Adverts Menu, which acts as a table of contents for all of the publication’s advertising features. Links can direct readers to advertisers’ specific Web landing pages. Reader activity is tracked and reported.
Pricing: $229 setup fee plus $3 per-page fee. $0.50 per page for removing all EditionDuo branding (optional). Additional charges include $35 for an animated GIF, and $95 for a compiled Flash file.
Magazine customers include: Golf Georgia; Grape Anticipation; I Do for Brides; Clemson University; Designs Direct Publishing
Contact: (770) 992-5078, EditionDuo.com
Solution/Service: Dirxion’s solution replicates printed publications, and supports restricted or open access. Standard features include: database-driven searches (by keyword, phrase and category); banner ad space; hot links to Web sites and e-mail addresses; customized table of contents; “sticky” notes; cross-reference links; Flash ads; audio/video linking; usage tracking and reporting; and support for multiple languages.
Pricing: Not provided.
Magazine customers include: PennWell; Harrison Group
Contact: (888) 391-0202, Dirxion.com
E-Book Systems Inc.
Solution/Service: E-Book Systems’ FlipBook Publishing System’s Digital Flip technology is designed to replicate the page-flipping experience. With FlipBook Creator, a Wizard-based program, online magazines can be enhanced with video, animations, music, embedded links and search functions.
Pricing: Not provided.
Magazine customers include: FHM; Primedia; MediaCorp
Contact: (408) 625-8000, FlipViewer.com
iMirus, a div. of Riggs Heinrich Media Inc.
Solution/Service: iMirus enables publishers to create digital editions—online or downloadable—of their print titles. The iMirus Reader may be customized to match the publisher’s branding and deployed via the publisher’s site (no software download is required), or served up as a client application for readers who wish to download a publication “to go.” iMirus also provides advertising and marketing programs, including banner ads, sponsorship programs, custom-published content, and sales of the outside front cover of the e-edition.
Pricing: iMirus operates as a “software as a service” model. Pricing is based on a package, which includes all services, or a la carte, which start at as low as $600 (including hosting).
Magazine customers include: Business Traveler; NWA World Traveler; Dental Economics; Rhode Island Monthly; Giant
Contact: (918) 492-0660, Imirus.com
Solution/Service: NewsStand takes a consultative approach to developing solutions for publishers of magazines, books, newspapers and more. NewsStand’s services and solutions include archiving, content management and repurposing, electronic editions, subscriber management and custom publishing. In addition to its public-facing NewsStand.com site, the company also works with b-to-b and corporate publishers to develop e-editions and Intranet-based content portals, enabling more robust advertiser-publisher programs.
Pricing: NewsStand.com’s e-editions are created based on flat fees dependent upon circulation. For pricing of other services, contact NewsStand.
Magazine customers include: Barron’s; Harvard Business Review; Laptop Magazine; Flight International; Nature Publishing
Contact: (866) 837-4567, NewsStand.com
Solution/Service: Nxtbook Media’s e-edition solution features include: bookmarks and page notation; word searches (current issue and archival); “forward content to a friend” capabilities; hyperlinks and e-mail links; and permalinks. The e-edition may be enriched with toolbar ads and sponsorship programs; Flash ads; audio and video ads; gatefolds, bellybands and inserts; and Gravicon surveys. Reader behavior is also tracked.
Pricing: Not provided.
Magazine customers include: Advanstar Communications; Reed Business Information; Weaver Official Publications; EContent Magazine; Primedia
Contact: (866) 268-1219, NXTBookmedia.com
Solution/Service: Olive Software is designed to create exact print replicas, through a centralized data-storage system and a single workflow, and to enable publishers to use the software to produce and host the digital edition—or, via its outsourced model, have Olive produce and host the title.
Pricing: Not provided.
Magazine customers include: Time Inc.; ESPN; Reed Business Information; Hearst Business Media; Newport
Contact: (866) 654-8387, OliveSoftware.com
Solution/Service: PageSuite is an online, interactive, page-turning software application that enables publications to be presented in a digital edition deployed via the Internet.
Pricing: From $500; depends on page count and frequency.
Magazine customers include: Condé Nast; Cambridge Style; City Living; Working Mother; Clarity Media Group
Contact: Info@PageSuite.co.uk, PageSuite.co.uk
Pressmart Media Ltd.
Solution/Service: Pressmart converts publishers’ digital prepress pages into digital editions, using a patent-pending technology, and delivers them via the Web, mobile, podcasts, RSS feeds, social networks and content-aggregation services. Publications are promoted to subscribers via Pressmart.net, as well as by online advertising, new-edition notifications, news alerts and e-mail campaigns. E-editions are pre-
integrated with social-networking sites and content-
aggregation services, and are search-engine ready.
Pricing: Not provided. No upfront investment; fees based on a per-page rate.
Magazine customers include: Not available for publication.
Contact: (212) 351-5090, Pressmart.net/eedition.html
Solution/Service: Qmags’ electronic issues, delivered via the Internet, can be exact copies of the printed magazines, or digital publications created with the QuVu format, which enables the publication to fit readers’ computer screens, requiring no page manipulation. E-magazines can be enhanced with audio and video, hyperlinks and electronic search capabilities.
Pricing: Not provided.
Magazine customers include: Animation Magazine; Armchair General Magazine; Computer Magazine; IEEE Security & Privacy; Waste Management World
Contact: (212) 947-6050, ext. 11, Qmags.com
Solution/Service: Texterity converts publishers’ titles into the Published Web Format (PWF) from PDF files. PWF replicates page-turning, and enables cover wraps, bellybands, etc., to be transformed into overlays, pop-ups or animation. Buyers’ response cards appear as blow-ins (layered on the publication), and direct readers to specific advertiser locations. Texterity’s Lead Management System enables publishers and advertisers to offer premium content, such as white papers, within the digital edition, prompting readers to opt-in. PWF reader reports may also be used for BPA and ABC circulation statements.
Pricing: Not provided. Costs include a per-page conversion fee; a monthly maintenance fee for document hosting with customer-branded URL, search engine visibility, archive issues, and availability across all platforms without a plug-in or application (Windows PC, Macintosh, and iPod Touch or iPhone), among others; and a delivery fee. Other services also are available.
Magazine customers include: Make Magazine; Game Developer; Internal Auditor
Contact: (508) 804-3000, Texterity.com
Solution/Service: YUDU Publishing Pro features include video, audio and Flash file insertion; a digital rights management system; contextual and archival search; bookmarking and notations; advertising components, such as tabs, gatefolds and bellybands; statistics capture; and more. It offers crisp vector text (which eliminates pixelation) and infinite zoom.
Pricing: Not provided.
Magazine customers include: Not available for publication.
Contact: (888) FOR-YUDU, Yudu.com
Solution/Service: Zendition’s a base model application is designed to enable page flipping, print capabilities, search functions, zoom, table of contents and more. Add-on modules include audio, video, pop-ups, back-end integration, BPA auditing, and registration and user tracking.
Pricing: Not provided.
Magazine customers include: Strategy & Business; Relix; Global Rhythm; Trader Monthly; Corporate Leader
Contact: (646) 278-0621, Zendition.com
Solution/Service: Zinio’s Publisher Growth Services Group collaborates with publishes to help integrate and tailor online marketing programs to a publisher’s circulation, ad sales, brand extension or other audience-building goals.
Pricing: Not provided.
Magazine customers include: Primedia; Reader’s Digest; VNU (now Nielsen); Disney; The Hearst Corp.; Rodale; National Geographic; TV Guide
Solution/Service: Zmags Publicator is designed for creating and editing electronic versions of print publications. It is designed to enable creation of e-editions in as few as five minutes, on average. The solution is Web-based, requiring no software downloads. Available in two levels—PublicatorExpress and PublicatorPro. PublicatorPro also features advanced editing; archives management; high-resolution zooming; advanced analytics; and automatic linking to internal and external sources.
Pricing: Starting at $45/month per publication.
Magazine customers include: Not available for publication.
Contact: (613) 627-4101, Zmags.com PE
Gretchen A. Peck is a freelance author who writes about the international printing and publishing industries.
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
Will Print Die? Not Today.
Publishing Executive Magazine
In his column on page 42 [seePart 1 in today's Newsletter], columnist Bob Sacks writes: "The only thing holding [digital magazine editions] back presently is a perfect substrate." That's sort of like saying, "The only thing holding me back from a fabulous singing career is my voice."
The key to any new medium seems to be the benefit to the user. When cassette tapes came out, I never wondered whether they would replace vinyl. Cassettes wouldn't scratch, they took up less space, and you could play them in the car.
When CDs came out, did anyone wonder whether they would replace cassettes? CDs didn't get "eaten" or melt in the sun, and you didn't have to fast forward to find the beginning of the next song.
Then came the iPod-it's teensy-tiny, it won't scratch or melt, it's easy and inexpensive to download music, and it can do many things a CD, cassette or record can't. With each new medium, the benefits to the music fan increased dramatically.
But e-books' and digital editions' future is under debate. Will they be the future? Bob Sacks says yes. Many disagree.
E-editions and e-books do save on space. But are books or magazines really that cumbersome compared to laptops or even e-readers? How often do most people carry them around anyway, and particularly several at once? Students, along with frequent travelers (who Sony initially targeted with its Reader), may be the exception. Are print pages difficult or time-
consuming to flip? Print publications are already quite cheap and convenient (delivered to your door).
But there are benefits: archives and searches available with many digital editions; rich media enhancements and live links; timeliness-you can eliminate printing and distribution time. But what about magazines where time isn't a factor? As Alex Brown points out in her "Master Manufacturer" column (page 18), some magazines are meant to be in print, some are not.
Saving trees is a growing consumer priority and may be a significant contributor to wider-scale adoption of e-magazines.
But at this point, most benefits are to the publisher-saving on manufacturing and distribution costs, which publishers are striving desperately to tame. This is pushing publishers to push digital editions. Is that in the consumers' best interest?
Digital editions are being adopted in growing numbers (see "Digital Editions' Growth Spurt," page 33). For others, reading for pleasure on a computer screen at home isn't appealing. Sacks even acknowledges this.
But, he writes, "The future is here now," with the Sony Reader, Amazon Kindle and other e-readers. The price of e-readers will likely come down. And, as Sacks notes, "These devices will not go away, but rather will only get better and more advanced at what they do-distribute content."
Will screenagers be the tipping point? Maybe. They want the latest gadgets and are used to reading on screens. But they also are used to reading in bytes. So the question may not be whether they'll read a book or magazine in print or digital form, but whether they'll read them at all in their current format.
You should offer a digital edition if your readers want it. Should you offer only digital editions? Sacks writes, "By 2025, e-paper devices will be the predominant way in which people read. And they will most likely be reading some formulation of digital-edition technology." That's 17 years away, so you've got some time, even by BoSacks' standards.
E-paper-if developed to truly mimic real paper, and to be cost-effective and benefit-driven-seems a promising alternative to paper. But I can't help but be reminded of the fact that the first e-book was created more than 60 years ago, and people have predicted the death of print since at least the '60s. Marshall McLuhan, an English professor, media analyst and book author, predicted print's demise 46 years ago.
In 1999, Princeton University history professor Robert Darnton wrote in the New York Review of Books: "Marshall McLuhan's future has not happened. . . . The electronic age did not drive the printed word into extinction . . . . . . . We have heard that prophecy repeated ever since the first e-book, a clunking monstrosity known as Memex, was designed in 1945. By now, the conventional book has been pronounced dead so often that we shouldn't be surprised to find that it seems in excellent health."
The media world is changing-no denying that. Readers' habits are changing. Business models are changing, and online media empires are being built as we speak. But will print die? Not today.
BoSacks Replied thusly on the Web Site
That was a brilliant and wonderful treatment and overview of the "current" publishing situation. Key emphasis is on the word current. The technology and the sociology is changing faster than anyone can possible keep up with, and yet I try to do so. Our researchers at Media-Ideas.net continue to focus on emerging technologies, and they have forecast some interesting data and reading utilization curves. Predicting that an event will happen and concurrently predicting when it will happen are two different sets of prescience. 600 years ago Leonardo Da Vinci forecast and actually designed, the tank, the car, the automatic transmission, hydraulic pumps, reversible crank mechanisms, several flying machines, including a helicopter, a light hang glider, and the parachute. He wasn't wrong. But the "current technology wasn't up to the task and his vision.
Today, for publishers, the technology is not in some far off distant future, but present and on sale right now. Each month there are new and improved additions to the ereading marketplace.
At the next Publishers Executive meeting let us forget about inviting Samir Husni. I would be delighted to debate you in his place on this very subject. It would be fun and informative for everyone. You represent the hopes and the real fears of the editor in us all, while I represent . . . well something else.